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SSDI: Return to Work Guidelines


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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) encourages people to return to work by providing incentives including creating a Trial Work Period during which there is no limit on the amount of money you can earn while still receiving your SSDI benefits including Medicare

  • The Trial Work Period lasts for 9 months, which are not necessarily consecutive (one after the other.) This period is easily renewable to up to 12 months. Plus there is a program known as Extended Period of Disability that extends some benefits beyond 12 months.
  • Additional incentives to return to work include not counting a substantial portion of so-called subsidized earnings, deducting certain work related expenses  (IRWE) and allowing savings accounts that can lead to future work (PASS Accounts) and a program that includes vocational retraining (TWWIIA).
  • Social Security is not allowed to use your attempt to return to work as the basis for classifying you as no longer disabled. Your disability status must still be determined on the basis of your medical records alone.
  • Social Security works to be helpful if the return to work isn't successful. For instance, benefits continue if it turns out you are unable to work.
  • If you are receiving Medicare because of SSDI, it also continues under a program known as TWWIIA, which is pronounced like "Twee -- uh."
  • Problems can arise when Social Security continues to pay benefits after your eligibility to receive them has stopped. Once Social Security catches up, they will want a refund, often catching people unaware. You can avoid a problem by knowing the rules and by keeping your own records when you return to work.

For additional information, see:

Note: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) work incentive programs are different from SSDI. For information on SSI's work incentives see SSI: Return To Work Incentives.

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